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Top 10 Cross Stitch Tips

Top 10 Cross Stitch Tips

with 25 Comments

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Want to learn to cross stitch like a pro? Have a look at this list and see if you know all these cross stitch tips and tricks that experienced stitchers live by! You’llย not only end up with a nicer finished product, but you’ll enjoy this addictive craft even more!

 

1. Clean hands

It seems like common sense, but wash your hands before touching your fabric or floss – you’ll wash your piece when it’s done anyway, but there’s no point getting your floss and fabric dirtier. If you’re not sure how to wash your piece, click here for a video tutorial onย the easiest way to wash your cross stitch piece when you’ve finished stitching it (and why you should wash it). If you’re using hand-dyed floss or fabric (or floss from a kit), it’s always a good idea to pre-wash itย before stitching to get rid of any loose dye that may stain your project later.

 

top ten cross stitch tips - #1
Clean hands = happy fabric ๐Ÿ™‚

 

2. Loop Method

Use the loop method for starting threads if you’re using an even number of strands (or a pin stitch if you’re not) – here’s a video link showing you exactly how to use the loop methodย and pin stitch.

 

top ten cross stitch tips - #2
Thread the needle with the loop end – it’s easier

 

3. Length of embroidery floss

Measure your floss strands using the length of your fingertips to your elbow (double it if using the loop method to start) – this length is just perfect for reducing the amount of tangles in your thread.

 

top ten cross stitch tips - #3
Measure from the tips of your fingers to your elbow

 

4. Protect your fabric edges

If you want, you can protect your fabric edges with a zigzag stitch or a small amount of Fray Check. You can also use painters tape to seal the edges of your fabric. This will help prevent your edges from getting banged up and fraying while you work on your project. Fray Check can be bought at most needlecraft shops, or even the craft section of big stores like Walmart.

 

 top ten cross stitch tips - #4
A little bit of Fray Check goes a long way

 

5. Untwist your needle

Keep untwisting your thread every now and then. Drop the needle and let the floss unwind or hand twist the needle. Most people naturally will rotate the needle slightly with every stitch which makes your floss slowly start to twist up (I need to untwist in a counter-clockwise direction). You can also use techniques like railroading to keep the floss parallel and neat, but just remembering to untwist my needle every few stitches works just as well. If the floss is twisted, it can create an odd texture in your stitches and the fabric will show through your stitches more.

 

top ten cross stitch tips - #5
Your thread will naturally twist as you stitch

 

 

free cross stitch patterns

 

 

6. Check your counting

Count count count and double check your counting. You can keep track of where you are by marking your pattern (paper or digital) in various ways, or you can just count. I don’t mark my patterns as I take a photo with my phone and hang it on my sewing frame. I then read the pattern directly from the photo (pic below). So make sure to double count, it really helps minimize mistakes. Andย tip #7 will really help you with not making counting mistakes.

 

top ten cross stitch tips
Working on Blaine Billman’s “Spirit of the Sockeye” when I’m not busy creating new designs

 

7. Gridding cross stitch

For bigger pieces, gridding is a godsend and will save you hours of time (and your sanity) – you can see the video demonstration hereย of how to grid your cross stitch project with a fabric marker or mechanical pencil. Don’t forget to check that your chosen method of marking the fabric will erase/wash out cleanly before marking up your entire piece of fabric, and check the linked post for “issues” that can arise later with fabric markers. If you prefer having a fool-proof method to grid your fabric that’s reusable, check out this post about how to grid your fabric using fishing line.

 

top ten cross stitch tips - #7
Halfway through my “Shades of Grace” pattern, it was all gridded

 

8. Try making your own pattern

If you’re wanting to make a quick gift or to help teach a child or beginner to stitch, here are some good tips to help you make a simple cross stitch pattern. You can use software or just some graph paper and coloured pencils.

 

top ten cross stitch tips - #8
A small pattern I made for my 9-year old niece to learn to stitch

 

9. Use a frame

Use a sewing frame (like a scroll bar frame) if you’re having a hard time holding hoops or Q-snap frames (or need to stitch while reclining like I do). You can even try just holding the fabric with no hoop at all and stitching using the sewing method, many stitchers prefer it. If you do want to try a sewing frame, there are variations that stand upright, as well as lap stands and stands that you can clip your existing hoop or Q-snap into. You can even turn a scroll bar frame into a lap frame really easily and inexpensively – here’s a blog post showing you howย to make legs for your scroll frame.

 

 top ten cross stitch tips - #9
Scroll bar frame + legs = lap stand

 

10. Don’t worry about rules

Don’t stress about how other people stitch, or what the “right” way to stitch is. For example, unless you genuinely enjoy making both sides of your piece look perfect, don’t worry about how the back of your piece looks – many stitchers were taught by their grandmothers that “the measure of a good woman is how neat the back is.” Unless your piece is going in a fair to be judged or is being stitched on very translucent fabric, there’s no need to be concerned about carrying threads or the occasional knot. Cross stitch is meant to be relaxing. And quite often the back of an embroidery piece has a really interesting personality all its own, as the back of my “Pieta” piece shows below. Also don’t worry about doing techniques like theย parking method (as opposed to cross country stitching) if it’s just not your style. Even keeping all your top threads going the same direction isn’t a set-in-stone rule – some artists switch it up to create texture in a piece as the light will fall differently on the colours. Just do what you like, experiment, and don’t worry about what anyone else tells you is the “right” way to do cross stitch.

 

top ten cross stitch tips - #10
The back of my “Pieta” design, I love how it looks like a coloured pencil drawing

 

11. Bonus tip: Relax!

Don’t forget to have fun and relax! Cross stitch is proven to be hugely beneficial for your mental and physical health —ย you can see one article here on the mental health benefits of cross stitch. If you’re having a bad day stitching and just can’t get into it, put it away for a day or so and come back to it refreshed. There are also several ways to get your stitchy bug back if it’s gone on vacation without you. And join in with many of of the online groups to discuss cross stitch, it’s a great community out there! Feel free to post pictures of what you’re working on onto any of my social media pages, I’d love to see what you’re up to!

 

If you enjoyed these cross stitch tips, please share this post and help out other stitchers. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

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Top 10 Cross Stitch Tips
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Top 10 Cross Stitch Tips
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Want to learn to cross stitch like a pro? Have a look at this list of the top ten cross stitch tips and see if you agree with other stitchers!
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Peacock & Fig
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Follow Dana Batho:

Artist and Designer

I am an artist, veteran, analyst, and mommy to the sweetest dog ever. I am constantly thinking of ways to use my creativity in everything I touch despite my physical limitations, and I love encouraging others to do the same.

25 Responses

  1. Joan
    | Reply

    I’m curious about your recommendation of Fray Check. When I was stitching in the early ’90’s, the “hard core” stitchers were adamant that it would cause irreparable harm to the fabric and should never be used on pieces that you wanted to last more than a few years. These same ladies (99.9% were female) banned licking your thread to help get it through the eye of the needle because spit would cause spots on the fabric. Were they crying ‘wolf,’ or should we worry about this?

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha thanks for your question Joan! I’m not sure about Fray Check, but most people would be putting it on the edges of their fabric, not directly on the stitching. So even if it yellowed the edges very slightly over time, it’s not a big deal as you’re going to be using so little of it. Using tape or whatever is really not recommended (unless it’s acid free), as the adhesive in the tape definitely will yellow your fabric, and it could creep further beyond the edge of the tape if the glue is really acidic. I think if there were major issues with Fray Check, either the company would have reformulated the ingredients so they were more PH neutral, or they wouldn’t be selling it anymore. And the licking the thread thing has nothing to do with creating spots on the fabric (unless you were drinking a lot of red wine at the time). ๐Ÿ˜€ Licking your floss used to be a no-no as the process for fixing dyes used chemicals that could be toxic, you really didn’t want to be putting that in your mouth. It’s recommended to wash your piece at the end anyway (unless you’re using hand-dyed fabric or floss), so any “issues” with your saliva leaving marks wouldn’t apply. Also, some dyes might not be colourfast, so that little bit of dampness could leach colour out of the floss onto your fabric. Some people have also have had issues with the eyes their needles rusting, as the floss is always damp when being threaded. So their floss would shred as the eye of the needle was sharp and cracking from tiny bits of rust (which could also transfer onto your floss). I don’t believe in any hard core “do’s and don’ts” of stitching, the whole point is to enjoy yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Faith
    | Reply

    Great tips!

    I guess I have been making my floss length way to long so I will try and adjust that ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Haha that’s ok Faith, it happens. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you enjoyed the tips, happy stitching! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Khurshid Khoree
    | Reply

    Very interesting. I learnt a lot by reading Top Ten Cross stitch Tips and tips and suggestions given by other stitchers. Thank you Dana Batho, I am so very happy that I became a member of Peacock Lounge. Though I have been cross stitching for a long time I did not know the many ways and techniques of cross stitching.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Thanks very much for your comment Khurshid, I’m glad you enjoyed the tutorial! Have a great day, and happy stitching! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Emily
    | Reply

    Our readers will love this. I have included your wonderful tips in our Crafty Like Granny weekly Craft roundup ๐Ÿ™‚ https://craftylikegranny.com/crafting-happiness/ Cheers Emily

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Thanks so much Emily, appreciate it! Have a great week! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. […] Peacock and Fig Top 10 Cross Stitch Tips […]

  6. DJ
    | Reply

    Great tips! Your Pieta looks beautiful! Can you share which chart you’re using?
    Thanks!

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi DJ, thanks for your comment! It’s actually my own chart, it was the first time I’d tried using the software I’d just purchased (MacStitch, it’s called WinStitch for the PC version). It’s great, I use it now for all my patterns. I don’t have that chart on my site at the moment, but I’m considering putting it on. I’m not sure if you’re a member of the Peacock Lounge, but I always let my members know about new patterns on my site. If you’d like to join (it’s totally free and you also get access to my free patterns), just sign up at peacockandfig.com/join-now and then you’ll be notified of when it goes online! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks very much, have a good day!

      • DJ
        |

        Oh, thank you! I just signed up ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s very lovely, I would definitely be interested if you post it on your site.
        Have a good day too! I’m enjoying exploring your blog!

      • Dana Batho
        |

        Haha not a problem DJ! I hope you enjoy the site, and I have a new freebie pattern in the design stage right now. So once that goes online you’ll get an email about that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy stitching!

  7. Robin
    | Reply

    I remember when I was teaching a friend to cross stitch and I said,”When you wash it–” At that point, she interrupted me, “What!?” She couldn’t get past the idea that she would wash all that hard work. I tried to convince her that it would be okay, but she just couldn’t go there. Sadly, I think she finally gave up on xs because of that. Maybe she picked it back up later….

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Awww that’s sad, I hope she did pick it back up. If you’re still friends with her you could send her the tutorial video I did on washing your piece (it’s linked in the post), it’s so easy it’s almost effortless. Of course it depends on whether you want it to last or not, if it’s just a quick test project it may not be worth washing. But for the few minutes it takes and the benefits it gives, compared to spending weeks and months on a project it’s the easiest part of stitching. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Nance Cee
    | Reply

    I have a tip. I usually turn about one half inch of fabric and stitch around the edges to keep my fabric from fraying. I turn the raw edge toward the working side of my piece. This is one way to make sure if I do soil the edge it will wind up on the back side of my work when I take the stitching out.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      That’s a good tip, thanks for that Nance Cee! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s like when I roll my fabric around my scroll bars, I do it so the bottom side of the fabric is “up” against the bars. That way your hands rest on the underside of the fabric. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Rita Rawls
    | Reply

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been looking for a cross stitch pattern that my mother did 15 – 20 years ago showing the different stages of the cotton plant (we are cotton farmers!). My mothers pattern was lost and I sure would like to find a copy. Any suggestions?

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hi Rita, glad the tips helped you! For your mum’s pattern, unless you know the name of it or the designer, it would be very difficult to trace it down. Now most designs are also available online, which means you can do an image search of a photo of the pattern (reverse Google image search) and come up with similar images. That often will give you the name of the designer and pattern. But older patterns often are no longer being produced, so the pattern image never really made it online for any retailers like 123stitch, Joanns, etc. The only thing I can suggest is try posting any images of it you have into some of the larger Facebook cross stitch groups. Someone may recognize the pattern or the style of the designer, and then you can see if it’s still available. If it’s been discontinued, sometimes you can find older copies of patterns on sites like eBay or even Etsy. I hope that helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Melanie
    | Reply

    Dana,
    Love your advice…and where were you when I was stitching years ago (particularly referencing #10)? LOL. I was such an avid cross stitcher. And then I met one of my husband’s co-workers, who was also an avid cross stitcher. She looked at my work, then (eek!) turned it over. Oh, the shame! She made a comment about how the back of my work was “messy,” and after that I lost a bit of interest in cross stitch, because then I felt the back had to look as good as the front (I was self-taught and nobody had ever previously said the back needed to look as good as the front). It killed quite a bit of the joy for me. I still cross stitch, but am nowhere near as prolific as I used to be. Wish I could have read your excellent advice back then…absolutely love it! By any chance do you have a time machine? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I did later realize it had been the height of impropriety for “that woman” to have turned my work over, but at the time it left a very bad and long-lasting impression. I’d never do that to anyone…so wrong!

    Thank you for your great advice! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Hahaha “that woman,” yes she definitely shouldn’t have criticized your work. I know a lot of people were taught by their grandmas that the back had to look as good as the front, and I have no idea where that came from. There are some types of embroidery that are reversible (like Italian blackwork), but cross stitch is definitely not reversible. To me everyone sees the front, so losing your mind over what the back looks like is just a massive waste of time and energy. And you can only do so much to have the back look nice anyway, so it’s always going to be a losing battle. And let’s see, ten years ago I was living in Japan working at the Canadian Embassy and teaching English at a private school, so I probably couldn’t have helped you back then anyway. Glad you’re getting back into stitching — as Nike says, just do it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Birthe
    | Reply

    I enjoy your blog very much and appreciate your videos. Lovely work. I wondered if you have any tips for my next project–I’m doing a cover for a pillow and worried about finishing the pillow itself? Any tips would be much appreciated.

    • Dana Batho
      | Reply

      Thanks very much for your feedback, I really appreciate that! ๐Ÿ™‚ For your pillow, it would depend on exactly how you are going to make it. If you’re going to use the entire stitched piece as the front panel on its own (I’m assuming you’re stitching just one side of the pillow), here are a few ideas. I personally would finish off the edges of the stitched piece (either with Fray Check or by zigzagging or using a serger) before stitching it to your backing fabric. That way if it’s going to be a pillow case and the pillow will get removed occasionally, the edges of the stitching on the inside of the case won’t start to fray and get worn. I’d also consider machine (or hand) stitching your finished cross stitch to a backing fabric first, and then stitching that whole panel to the actual back pillow cover. By backing the cross stitch onto another piece of fabric first, it will give the stitching more structure and it’s less likely to warp out of shape. So then you’d have 3 layers of fabric – the top panel would be your stitching attached to a backing/support panel of fabric, and then the actual back panel of your pillow. If you’re going to centre your stitched piece onto the pillow (so it’s smaller than the actual size of the finished pillow), I’d first hand tack the stitching to the (larger) backing panel, and then cover those seams with bias tape and securely sew that down. That will completely cover your seams, so there’s no chance they’ll catch on anything or fray. Then you’d sew the back panel of the pillow to the front piece and complete your pillow.

      There are lots of ways you could assemble your pillow, the main thing is making sure your stitching is going to be stabilized and strengthened (by sewing it to another piece of fabric) and then making sure your edges are safe from fraying or getting worn. If you’d like to post pics onto my Facebook page (at any stage of your assembly), I’m happy to give you feedback and ideas for next steps to take! ๐Ÿ™‚ My Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/handylittlegadget. Good luck, I’d love to see your project! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Birthe
        |

        Thanks so much Dana. Absolutely good idea about stabilizing. I will send you photos as I go. The goal is to complete by end of August 2016. It’s a piece for a ring bearer pillow for a wedding. I usually do pieces that are framed or sewn into a bell pull, and all the pillows I’ve done before now have been needlepoint. Thanks for your reassurance–giving me courage to launch! All the best, Birthe

      • Dana Batho
        |

        Sounds like a great project Birthe! I’m sure it will be a piece that is treasured for a very long time, I look forward to seeing pics of it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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